When I thought about France as a general whole, I suppose I never included the city of Paris. I always think of Paris as a separate entity for whatever reason. When I think of everywhere else in France however, I think about a rolling countryside, quaint little villages and far off castles.
My daughter watched the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast a million times right before I left on this vacation, so in my tiny little pea brain I guess I figured I was going to the opening scene of Belle singing about her provincial life...
Or like this:
I know it's horribly corny, but it's embarrassingly true. I didn't even know this was a concept in my head until we drove through it and I thought to myself, "why does this place look so familiar?"
And then it shamelessly dawned on me...
I'm in a 3-year-old's imagination.
But it was seriously like something right out of a fairytale.
Imagine driving down the one way road, windows down, clean air blowing your hair in the wind, and when you look strait ahead you see the remnants of an old abandoned castle.
This particular one is called the Chateau de la Roche Guyon. After I got home, I was trying to find some information about it, and this is what I stumbled across from one grumpy historian: "At the summit of a steep promontory, dominating the bank of the great river Seine, rises a frightful castle without title to nobility, called La Roche. Invisible on the surface, it is hollowed out of a high cliff. The able hand of the builder has established in the mountainside, digging into the rock, an ample dwelling provided with a few miserable openings".
A dwelling providing a few miserable openings?!
I suppose in comparison to some of the other castles in the neighborhood it may fall a little bit short, but it's still beautiful nonetheless. I wouldn't exactly call it a shack...
But upon closer inspection, it had a bulletin board posted to the left of the staircase so it must be used for something.
So we kept driving, and I kept daydreaming of what it must be like to live here. I didn't see any schools, I didn't see any businesses, I didn't even see any people. I just saw these gorgeous houses made of beautiful stone and every one has climbing roses all the way up each and every side. Quite a different smell than I had just left behind in Versailles.
Our completely insane tour guide (who was arguably one of the sweetest men on the continent) drives us the wrong way up the steepest one way street I've ever been on, as fast as he could take us, turning corners so quickly it was making me dizzy. There wasn't a knuckle in the car that wasn't white. Finally with one sharp left turn, the mini-bus comes to a halt and parks.
Just like that.
And as I look up and to the opposite side of the van, this is what I see through the window:
This place is Le Moulin de Fourges. It is built as a replica of one of the buildings on the Versailles grounds which was used by Marie Antoinette when she wanted to pretend she was a farmer. She had an entire village constructed so she felt like she was a commoner away from Court constraints. It's hard to imagine a place like this as someones playhouse in their backyard.
We were running late due to someone spending more than their allotted time in the Versailles garden gift shop (I don't have any idea who that could have been...) and so we were escorted immediately to our table for a quick lunch before heading to Claude Monet's gardens.
So here I was, in the middle of France, at Belle's house, sipping extraordinarily fancy wine (at 11am) and spreading my fancy Pâté that tasted like cat food on my fancy french bread with my fancy napkin on my lap, and my fancy 5 forks that I couldn't for the life of me differentiate between.
They're lucky I put the water in the big wine glass...
The chicken marsala was amazing but the fresh apple strudel for dessert was even more amazing.
Our guide Max gave us about half an hour to wander around the grounds to "make pictures" before we headed to Monet's Garden.
One last look before we were off again.
We started getting closer to the entrance sign but even before we could see the garden we could smell it. The sweet scent of lilac and rose could have taken you to the front gate even if you were blind.
The intoxicating aroma of thousands of flowers hit me in the face like a punch and reminded me how tired I was. It just seems like a place built to take a long nap in the shade of the summer heat. It is just so completely relaxing.
Claude Monet was famous for being one of the founders of Impressionist style oil paintings. He produced hundreds of them in the late 1890's and early 1900's. Having a strong passion for art throughout his entire life, he moved to his house located here in Giverny, France in 1883 because of the inspiration from its small garden. From then, he cultivated a living masterpiece which continued to inspire him for the rest of his life. His most famous works are all impressionistic visions of places found in this garden, perhaps the most famous being "Water Lilies" which is on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles, California.
It is unbelievably cool to see the same yellow flowers grow in the exact spot Monet planted them over 100 years ago.
This piece tittled "Water Lily Pond and Weeping Willow" is one of my all time favorites.
In person, it's everything you'd expect it to be.
There was a very strict "NO PHOTOGRAPHY ALLOWED" rule enforced once we were inside Mr. Monet's house seen below. So I'll end today's post with this little peak-a-boo view and with the words of Monet himself:
“It’s on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way. So we must dig and delve unceasingly.”